The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has issued a proposed decision to renew the net-metering tariff for solar customers at current rates.
‘Governor Brown's PUC is standing up for clean power and for customers by proposing to reject the utilities' attempts to make solar out of reach for customers,’ says Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA).
The proposed decision rejects the utility proposals to slash the value of credits for power they receive from solar customers and impose large new fees for solar customers. At the same time, the proposal does make changes that solar companies have opposed.
For one, the proposal would create a new fee for solar customers to collect utility program charges on a larger portion of the bill. CALSEIA proposed starting this fee in 2019 rather than at the beginning of the new tariff. It would also mandate that solar customers on the new tariff use rates that vary by the time of day beginning in 2018. CALSEIA contends that mandatory time-of-use rates would make it difficult for some customers to predict their savings.
The CPUC's proposed decision establishes a process to revisit the net-metering tariff again in 2019 but guarantees that customers who install solar before those changes take effect will not be subject to the further changes.
The proposed decision will undergo a 30-day comment period, with a vote on a final decision likely in January.
Brad Heavner, policy director for CALSEIA, contends that the public utilities have argued throughout the proceeding that maintaining net metering would result in a great expense to non-solar customers. The CPUC's proposal shows that such claims have not been proven, he says.
‘The commission is rejecting the utilities' false numbers and clearing the pathway for solar to continue to grow,’ Heavner says.
Combined with the restructuring of residential rates that is already being phased in, the changes in the proposed decision may result in little to no shifting of utility revenue sources.
The proposed decision also features an alternative tariff for disadvantaged communities that will create further opportunities for low-income customers to benefit from solar power. Details of the alternative tariff need to be resolved, but CALSEIA says that it may lead to a workable community solar program.
The proposed decision would continue virtual net metering and meter aggregation with full retail credit. It also approves CALSEIA's proposal to expand market-rate virtual net metering to allow participation throughout a single apartment complex rather than just on an individual building.
‘Although we don't like everything in the proposed decision, it is a fair compromise that will maintain the opportunity for customers to go solar,’ Heavner says. ‘It is consistent with Governor Brown's strong commitment to transforming our energy system into one that is based on clean, local power.’